PULASKI — Carolyn Shirley is delaying her Florida vacation to be part of a special night honoring the memory of her husband and former Pulaski athletic director, Jeff Shirley.
Pulaski Academy and Central Schools will host the second annual Jeff Shirley Memorial Dodgeball Tournament on March 2 in the high school gym, honoring the legacy and benefitting the scholarship fund for their beloved former administrator and physical education teacher.
Jeff Shirley, a lifelong resident of Lacona and 1981 Sandy Creek graduate, passed away in February 2020 at age 56.
The event was originally slated for this past fall but was pushed back when the Pulaski varsity football team reached the Independent Division playoff championship game.
Carolyn Shirley, who plans an annual visit to Florida each March, then delayed her departure to ensure her presence at the tourney.
“It means the world to us as a family,” Carolyn Shirley said. “It means a lot to us to keep his memory alive, and it means a lot to us to support kids down the road that meant so much to him. He loved that school, and he loved those kids, and he always wanted to support those students.”
The dodgeball tournament was created last year as a fitting way to honor Shirley as fellow teachers and former students recalled the game being his favorite as a physical education teacher. Organizers are aiming to make the tourney an annual outing.
The event is open to all students and personnel in the district. Last year teams were filled with students, teachers, administrators, and surrounding staff such as the transportation department all entering a squad to compete for a good cause.
Pulaski Middle-High School principal, Jordan Fahnestock — who was a coach under Shirley as his athletic director for several years — said that students have been walking the halls with sign-up sheets for weeks to recruit their teams for the anticipated outing.
“He was such an important member of our PACS family and community for so many years, and the staff and students were really looking for things we could do to honor him and keep his memory alive,” said Jill Truax, a longtime teacher in the district and friend to the Shirley family.
“We felt it was a night he would really enjoy because it was filled with fun, family and friends, sportsmanship, all things that he really enjoyed and everything that he personified in his life,” she added.
Last year’s event was well-attended with each side of the high school bleachers packed.
Stories were shared by older students to those younger who never had the experience of meeting Shirley or understanding his influence on their peers.
The winning team consisted of junior and senior boys who all had Shirley as a teacher. Truax and fellow Pulaski teacher, Paul Monnat, held a pizza party for the winners with Carolyn Shirley joining and soaking in the memories of her husband shared by the students that he devoted so much of his energy to helping.
“The gym was just packed, and everyone was having a good time with it,” Fahnestock said. “There were a lot of smiles, and everyone seemed to be having fun and I think that’s something that he would have absolutely loved to see.”
Donations will be accepted for the Jeff Shirley Memorial Scholarship at the event along with several fund-raisers to benefit the fund.
The scholarship will be awarded for the fourth straight year to a senior boy and senior girl at the end of the school year, which is decided by a committee of staff members with Carolyn Shirley joining the discussions via Zoom.
All seniors who participate in at least one extra-curricular activity are eligible with the characteristics of a diligent work ethic, continually giving effort in school tasks, and is a team player in their respective roles.
The award winner embodies and demonstrates these values as well as honesty, compassion, and a willingness to help others, per the Pulaski website scholarship description.
Anyone looking to help the scholarship that is unable to attend the tourney are encouraged to send donations directly to the school with attention to superintendent Tom Jennings.
“It’s just so important to hold on and pay respect to the history of Pulaski and the people who have come before and done such a huge part of contributing to the culture and the atmosphere that we have,” Fahnestock said. “Jeff was such a great guy, a family man, and just such a likeable figure in our school.”
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.